One of my favorite bailout qualifiers people say before embarking on a rant that may be factually incorrect is, "I don't have the statistics in front of me." Once uttered, this phrase allows a few minutes of complete speculative bullshit to be tolerated without intense scrutiny, so while reading the opinions and claims tossed around below, please keep that sentence in mind.
From my vantage point, the Cincinnati Bengals are taking an especially serious approach to this upcoming draft. Since hiring not one but two additional scouts this offseason, Mike Brown is finally following the footsteps of fully-grown owners who handle their team in a professional, mature manner.
Thanks to the raging river of information Cincy Jungle provides its readers, fans have at least browsed past multiple updates the past few months, reporting some kind of Bengal presence at prospect pro-days and personal workouts. As mentioned, without keeping tabs on these kinds of things, I can't say for sure, but it definitely feels to me that the Bengals have been far more active this year in their scouting endeavors than ever before.
The obvious reason for this peak in scouting is the additional first-rounder from Oakland. While the Raider camp has said all the right things since trading away their foreseeable future, you can get easily discover their true emotions by solving this riddle: what's black and silver and red all over? Cincinnati has a double-barrel draft gun aimed right at the rich talent pool of the 2012 crop and are still laughing at the now-famous Hue Jackson heist.
The assistants have seen a lot of workouts—even Marv has taken trips to places like Arizona and Boise—and the Bengal war room should be filling up with lots of names and lots of information on each one.
Most of the earlier attention was on the more reputable college players, but the effort has stretched to guys projected to be selected in the deeper rounds and the updates keep floating downstream.
I think it's important to remember the role of the agent in all of this too. Sometimes we as fans are sold on a "report" that someone tweeted about how the Bengals are interested in so-and-so. If you represented a player, you too would want to name teams at any chance you had to drum up interest, even if it meant stretching the truth. It's sneaky, but it's their job.
Nonetheless, the pro-activity on the draft mixed with the modest free-agent approach can be taken as roadsigns of sorts to their future. They don't want to plug-and-play with older players, they don't want the high-profile veterans available on the market. They recognize an impressive team core that already has taken shape and they want to add additional permanency to that so that they can ensure more of a long-term consistency.
Which players they will choose is left up to the draft wizards—my wizard hat is stored in the back of the closet getting wrinkled and dusty. I feel all mocked out at this point and rarely does any of it fall into place as neatly as it is predicted anyway, but it seems the wizard guild has decided on a defensive back and either a receiver or a guard with their duel first-rounders. Running back was tossed around a for a while too, but once it became decided Trent Richardson would be gone by the time they picked, the angle cooled and only Lamar Miller or Doug Martin remain remote possibilities.
I've always been high on DeCastro as he seems like a safe pick and immediate starter, and I still think Alshon Jeffrey will someday reach stardom too, though I know he isn't high on many lists, but if the Bengals do address their secondary with one of the premiere picks, staying away from Mark Barron seems the way to go after his recent double-hernia surgery. I just don't like drafting hurt players.
The comfort in all of this is that whoever the Bengals choose, they will know a good deal about. They have done all of their homework this go-around and are perhaps the most prepared they have ever been heading into a draft. I expect quality contributors—even in the middle rounds—to compete for starting jobs now and for pro-bowls later. The money is in place, the team-leaders are in place, the culture is positive and the feel is professional. Nearly every starter returns on defense and the new faces on offense are already upgrades at their positions. The coaches are the same, the playbooks are expanding, and only the field-turf is completely different from last year's wild-card run.
So, without having the statistics in front of me, I am going on record to say that this is the draft that propels the Cincinnati Bengals into perennial contenders. This is the event that tips this franchise over to a bountiful era of winning and satisfaction. The labor of all of this scouting will someday bear the fruits of playoff victories. They are building a monster in Cincinnati. What looks modest and nonthreatening now, will be feared and loathed very soon. The hell with the statistics, this is happening!
Mojokong—frothing through spring.